Kiaya Drake was recognized for earning her full ACE certificate and then enrolled in the Social Worker program at Lakehead University. Though she is proud of her accomplishments, making it to Recognition Day was not without its challenges.
Drake was an inconsistent student in high school, focusing more on friendships and acceptance than on her education. She eventually succumbed to peer pressure, which led to substance abuse becoming a dominant part of her adolescent years. At 18, Drake became a mother to a young boy, which helped her to turn an important corner.
“My life prior to motherhood was dark and confusing,” she said. “I struggled with addiction, mental health issues and low self-esteem which stemmed from circumstances beyond my control. My son gave me the strength and ambition to strive for something better and become a role model he could look up to. Getting into Academic Upgrading was one of the first steps to achieving that.”
Starting in the Personal and Career Development (PCD) program, Drake was able to gain a better sense of direction and overcome issues with anxiety, a lack of discipline and self-doubt. But the struggles weren’t entirely over. After completing PCD, Drake exited and re-entered the Academic Upgrading program several times.
“Procrastination got the best of me and I stopped meeting my goal expectations, starting missing classes and eventually dropped out because of embarrassment,” said Drake. “I would never wander far for long though, and returned to class because my sheer determination to get an education outweighed my guilt and shame. And now I’ve succeeded in all of my goals and more.”
She added, “Academic Upgrading helped me to face the issues I was carrying both in and out of the classroom. It has allowed me to grow both academically and personally, and has prepared me for my future. Without it, I would not have found the strength and confidence to take the next step in pursuing post-secondary education.”
Drake also credits her success to a realization and acceptance of her addiction. She will proudly celebrate one year of sobriety on March 1 and looks forward to helping others in her situation as she pursues education and eventually a career in social work.